The 2011 NHL Draft came to a close Saturday afternoon, and the New Jersey Devils left Minnesota excited for their newest crop of prospects.
"Every time you have a draft, I think you're always pleased," Devils Director of Scouting David Conte said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "It's kind of like the day after Christmas. Time can only tell and we'll take it from there, but I'm very pleased and in particular that it starts out on such a positive note with Adam (Larsson)."
Larsson, the top-ranked international skater, fell to New Jersey at the number four spot during the first round. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello could barely contain his excitement as he approached the podium. With their defense needing improvement, they snagged the best defenseman on the board.
"We were really pleased," Lamoriello told Gulitti. "I think you could se it on all our faces."
The draft didn't end there. New Jersey selected five more players - three forwards, two defenseman - to complete their class. Over the past three drafts, they've used nine of their 18 picks on defenders.
After drafting Larsson, the Devils selected three straight forwards - Blake Coleman (third round, 75th overall), Reid Boucher (fourth round, 99th overall) and Blake Pietila (fifth round, 129th overall). They finished the draft with two defensive selections - Reece Scarlett (sixth round, 159th overall) and Patrick Daly (seventh round, 189th overall).
Coleman played for the Indiana Ice of the USHL, leading the league with 92 points. He will attend Miami of Ohio next season. Conte was excited the Devils grabbed the gifted forward.
"He probably didn't get the type of ice time or have the types of numbers (to draw the attention of scouts)," he told Gulitti. "He led his league in scoring (in 2010-11) and nobody lets you do that. You have to earn that. He was spectacular in that regard."
New Jersey continued selected their second of three forwards when they called Boucher's name. The 17-year old was ranked the 113th skater by NHL Center Scouting Bureau. He's currently with the U.S. National Team Development Program, but will attend Michigan State. He recorded 43 points last season.
Boucher's teammate, Pielta, came to New Jersey in the very next round. The future Michigan Tech player recorded just 22 points in 52 games. He played on the gold-medal winning U.S. 18 and under team in April.
Scarlett slipped considerably during the draft. The 57th ranked skater fell to the Devils during the sixth round. He recorded 24 points for Swift Current of the Western Hockey League. He struggled considerably at the U-18 championships, which may have hurt his stock.
Despite that negative press, Conte and the staff took a chance because of his talent.
"Our western (scouts) were extremely aggressive to the point where he was at a different level," Conte told Gulitti. "Being some positional considerations and stuff, it was something I think we had to do to support both their opinions, but also recognition of his talents."
New Jersey finished their draft by selecting Minnesota high-schooler Patrick Daly. He recorded 40 points in 27 games this season and will attend the University of Wisconsin this fall.
The Devils forfeited their second-round pick in this year's draft after the Kovalchuk contract saga last year. They will lose a first round pick in the upcoming three years to complete the punishment assessed by the league.